Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Mark 5:21-43
A synagogue official named Jairus pleads with Jesus to cure his daughter, who is at the point of death. While on the way to the official’s house, a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years comes through the large crowd that is following Jesus, and touches his cloak. She is instantly cured. Jesus, aware that power had gone out of him, asks, “Who has touched my clothes?” The woman in fear and trembling tells him that it was she. Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrive and announce that the young girl has died. Jesus says to the official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Taking Peter, James, and John with him, Jesus goes to the official’s house. Upon arrival, the crowd ridicules him when he says that the child is asleep, not dead. He then takes the child by the hand and says to her, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arises and walks around. Jesus gives strict orders that no one should know about what he did, and adds that the girl should be given something to eat.
The same Jesus, now Risen Lord, who reached out with compassion and with power to heal and to give life is with us. Gathered in his name, we pray that in our moment of affliction, we too will hear his words, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Likewise, we pray that the Lord will extend his compassion and power through us to others who are afflicted. For one, it may be care given to an aging parent; for another, it may mean long hours spent in a laboratory searching for a cure for cancer.
Two things in today’s gospel passage suggest further exploration of the mystery of Christ and its implication for anyone who wishes to follow in his way. Mark gives us the apparently needless information that Peter, James, and John witnessed the power of Jesus in raising the daughter of Jairus; secondly he tells us that Jesus gave the strange order about keeping what he had done a secret.
Jesus is quite aware of the large crowds that are beginning to follow him with the expectation that with his extraordinary power he will help them. Jesus recognizes their afflictions and responds with compassion. Yet, he must resist the temptation to reduce his mission for God’s kingdom to pressing earthly afflictions like illness and hunger. He commands silence about the raising of the daughter of Jairus because he does not want the essence of his mission to be misunderstood. The fourth gospel also refers to the fact that many people misunderstood the mission of Jesus (Jn 6:2,15,26).
Mark tells us that Peter, James, and John were also with Jesus on the mountain of tranfiguration (9:2-13) and in the garden of Gethsemane (14:32-42): even though beloved son of God, he will be stripped of power. In consequence of his trusting obedience to his loving Father, he will suffer greatly, be treated with contempt, and be killed. Dying upon a cross, he was in fact mocked for his loss of power: “He saved others; he cannot save himself” (15:29-32). Paul wrote that the message he preached, Christ crucified, is an obstacle to faith for Jews, and foolishness for the rest of us (1 Cor 1:23). Yet it is in dying powerless on a cross that Jesus reveals the ultimate meaning of divine power as self-giving love in response to his Father’s love. In this action Jesus heals the ultimate human affliction–separation from God.
Peter, James, and John, however, also witnessed the surprise of resurrection. Because Jesus emptied himself, becoming obedient even unto death, God greatly exalted him (Phil 2:5-11). No longer enjoined to be silent about what Jesus had done, they with other apostles have proclaimed the good news to the entire world. By following in the way of Jesus, each of us also as beloved son or daughter share in that life with God and with each other that no earthly affliction, death included, can destroy.
At our Eucharist today we might pray for the grace to grasp the meaning in our own lives of a truth that is as incomprehensible to human reason today as it was the day Paul wrote it: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).
Campion P. Gavaler, OSB